Pipeline operators to pay $12.5M after spills in Montana, North Dakota

31 July 2023

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Two pipeline operators have agreed to pay a $12.5 million civil penalty related to crude oil spills in Montana and North Dakota.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday 2022 federal court lawsuit. Belle Fourche Pipeline Company and Bridger Pipeline LLC will pay the $12.5 million to resolve the claims made under the Clean Water Act and Pipeline Safety Laws, EPA said. The affiliated companies own and operate oil pipelines in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.

In 2015, Bridger’s Poplar Pipeline broke and spilled more than 50,000 gallons (about 190,000 liters) of crude into the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana. Bridger has completed cleanup of the site, and in 2021 settled a lawsuit with federal and Montana authorities for $2 million.

In 2016, Belle Fourche’s Bicentennial Pipeline in Billings County, North Dakota, broke due to a landslide and spilled over 600,000 gallons (about 2.3 million liters) of oil, impacting an unnamed tributary, Ash Coulee Creek and the Little Missouri River. Belle Fourche’s cleanup is ongoing with oversight from North Dakota’s Department of Environmental Quality, according to EPA.

Belle Fourche also will pay the state’s past response costs, totaling over $98,000, according to court documents filed Monday.

“Oil pipeline spills can cause enormous and long-lasting damage to the environment,” Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance said in a statement. “This settlement holds Belle Fourche and Bridger Pipeline accountable for their significant oil spills and requires them to take meaningful measures to prevent future spills from their oil pipelines.”

The operators also are required to implement specified compliance measures, in addition to the civil penalty.

Belle Fourche and Bridger are owned by Wyoming-based True Companies, whose spokesman, when reached by email, did not have an immediate comment on the agreement.

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